The Merced Community College District has placed a $247-million bond (Measure J) on the March 3 ballot because this valued community institution needs financial assistance to build for the future.
Measure J could position Merced College to succeed for generations.
I currently serve as Dean of Instruction at Merced College, where one of my jobs is to secure funding to pay for programs. I am a former agriculture instructor and proud Merced College alumnus. I am grandson to Anthony “Tony” Rose, an original member of the MCCD Board of Trustees, as well as son to Jeff and Carolyn Tassey, two impactful, local career educators.
I come to you today knowing where the College has been, where it needs to go and what it will cost to get us there.
Let’s start with an obvious question. Many know that we are currently designing a new Agricultural and Industrial Technologies Complex. Why do we need more?
First, we have been waiting to build the Ag IT building for over 17 years. This area passed a bond in 2002 to pay for it, and then we waited. Merced College didn’t cause the delay. We simply needed a governor to add the project to the state budget.
Fortunately, we successfully received the matching funds last year and are working on the project as we speak. This time next year, construction will be well underway.
Second, we can’t wait any longer to implement new technology curriculum. In agriculture, technology applications are evolving much faster than a generation ago. If we drag our feet, the students who come to us looking for marketable skills in ag will get left behind.
They won’t be prepared for the jobs we don’t yet know about. In 2018, the Institute for the Future in Palo Alto predicted that 85 percent of the jobs that today’s students will do in 2030 don’t exist right now. But with the bond’s financial support, we can prepare students to work in those emerging fields in agriculture.
For example, you wouldn’t think computer science has much to do with agriculture. It does, especially when we talk about drones, which are now everywhere in ag. This state needs people with ag backgrounds who can program and pilot drones. We need people to take live photos, map fields and collect data so pest control advisers can target problem areas and maximize crop production.
At the College, we would use drones to apply insecticides on our pumpkin patch more efficiently, economically and safely. Why spray the entire field by helicopter when a drone can collect location data on insects and target spray specific areas without crushing plants?
Speaking of our backyard, Merced College instructor and resident computer science expert Kathleen Kanemoto is developing a program that will train drone computer programming professionals for careers at the best companies in agri-business.
There are other areas within ag education at Merced College that need upgraded facilities if we want to keep pace with industry demand for skilled, technologically savvy employees. We can’t ignore technology. We can’t ignore agriculture.
How would I sum up Merced College’s needs right now? We are doing the best we can with what we have. And “our best” is impressive. In 2018-19 alone, 100 percent of our Agricultural Program graduates found employment in their field within seven months of graduating.
To remain the region’s leader in highly skilled workforce training, we need help from people who stand to benefit most from these upgrades — community members and people who do business here.
Agriculture is the heart of the Central Valley. We have an outstanding ag program at Merced College. With this bond money, we can turn it into a phenomenal program.
As the leader in charge of finding funding for ag and CTE programs, I know how much Merced College needs this bond to pass.
As a graduate and employee of Merced College, I am telling you this place is worth that investment.
As a fellow community member, I respectfully ask you to vote yes on Measure J.